Borderlands opens with a story, about treasure, women, guns, money and all that good stuff. How does one obtain this untold wealth? The hidden vault of alien technology, which is stored somewhere on the planet of Pandora. You get your choice of four characters to play and seek out the treasure that awaits you on Pandora.
Borderlands is sort of difficult to explain. At its most basic level it is a first person shooter that incorporates the loot based and mission aspect of a role playing game. At times, though, Borderlands seems as though it could branch off into its own entirely separate genre. The intense fast game play mixes well with the slow moments in the game, though slow moments are far and few between. The graphic style of the game and its cell shading tends to lure players into a false sense of security, only to be moments later attacked by a random enemy. Towns are no safe haven from attack, as your enemies will follow you right into town and continue attacking. This just adds to the fast and sometimes panicked game play, which adds to the experience.
Players get to choose one of four characters to start the game. These characters are each members of a different job class. The classes are Hunter, Siren, Solider, and Berserker each class offers players a different and unique way to play the game. Hunter class specializes in snipers and magnums as such the hunter skill tree reflects that. The Siren class focuses more on increasing the chance of inflicting specialized effects such as corrosion and burn. The Solider is more of an utility class though it does have some specialization with automatic weapons and shotguns. The majority of the Solider’s skill tree is devoted to its special ability. Berserker class is the final and most powerful of the classes available in the game. Its skills focus on both its special ability and increasing the damage it does with explosives.
Along with their built-in specialized focus, each class has a special ability. These abilities are extremely useful in a pinch. The Hunter class’ ability is to call upon Bloodwing, a pet falcon that attacks your enemies from afar. The skill upgrades for this ability increase the amount of damage Bloodwing does or increases the drop rates on weapons and money for an enemy killed by Bloodwing. Sirens have the ability to phase walk. The phase walk ability allows Sirens to turn invisible and sneak up on enemies. When you come out of phase walk an elemental blast is let off creating a radius of damage around your character. The skill tree ties into this ability by decreasing cool-down time between its usage and other odds and ends to tweak this ability. Soldier class’ ability is to throw out a portable automated gun turret. The turret provides cover fire as well as a built-in shield, allowing players to hide behind while their own shields recharge. The skill tree works with the turret ability, giving players the option to have the turret regenerate health or ammo while nearby. Also one branch of the skill tree focuses on making the turret more powerful.
The controls for the game are fairly basic and feel rather natural to pick up. There is a bit of a learning curve but not much of one. The game takes time to make an obvious effort to explain the controls and other information to the player, forcing you read the information by not allowing you to exit out of those information boxes immediately.
Co-op mode truly transforms this game into a different sort of beast. Outside of co-op the game is a rather decent shooter, fun but a bit of a grinder. In co-op mode the game really opens up, allowing players to push the envelope as the game adapts to enemies becoming harder and the drops becoming better. Co-op mode allows for players to try out different tactics to accomplish missions that otherwise would be extremely difficult to manage alone.
The game developers half way through production decided to go back and change their graphics. This usually spells disaster for a game. That is not the case with borderlands. Developers displeased with how they had strayed from the concept art went back to the original style and it was a great choice. The art for the game has a definite graphic novel feel that is only enhanced by the choice to use cell shading. In the process, they created one of the more visually stunning games of the year, while it does not have photo-realistic graphics it doesn’t need it. The game’s current almost cartoon-like graphics fit amazingly well with the story, not taking away from game play at all.
Dialogue in the game is amazingly funny. In co-op mode characters will talk to each other, often times complaining if you take too much time to heal or shouting out warnings. Some of the bandits will shout phrases such as, “I’ll make you sorry you ever came here,” usually as they are being shredded to pieces with machine gun fire. It’s not what one would call the most in-depth dialogue, and in truth it does little to add to the overall story, but it is still a rather amusing plus.
Weapons. It doesn’t seem that the game can even be mentioned without talking about its massive amount of weapons. For many people this was a major selling point for the game and it was what was pushed the hardest, but while there are plenty of different weapons there isn’t much variety in actual design. The majority of the weapons look similar, just having different status effects or colors. So for those who were looking forward to seeing millions of different styles of gun, this a definite downside.
Bugs. The game on its release is and was one of the buggiest games. There are plenty of bugs which are exploited to the benefit of the players and just as many that are extremely detrimental to the players. Co-op mode, truly the shinning gem of this game, suffers the worst of the bugs. There are occasions where players lose their skill points upon logging out of the game. Gearbox is currently working on a solution.
Borderlands is an example of what games can be. It is very much a rejection of the more and more realistic games. The cartoonish art style and the comical interchanges between yourself and the other people of Pandora both build an interesting web that keeps you trapped within this game. It is among one of the most addictive and entrancing games of the 2009 year. It is a game I would definitely suggest to those who savor and enjoy co-op play, as this is when the game shines its brightest. While the game falls somewhat short in its variety of weapon designs there are still plenty of weapons, many of which will have you giggling like a madman as you watch them destroy your enemies. You have to love a game that labels the strongest of the normal enemies as badass. It is a definite must-have.
Whim Rating 4.5
Check out the intense trailer:
video from outside source.